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Family swimming in the Caribbean Sea on a Holland America cruise.

First Time Caribbean Guide

Nothing compares to that first trip to the Caribbean. The islands are much more than a paradisal escape—they are a dizzying mix of flavors, colors and music, spread out over vivid turquoise seas.

Have the best Caribbean vacation with our Caribbean travel guide for first-timers.

What Is The Best Caribbean Island For First-Timers?

Mile after mile of brilliant-white sand and crystal waters are the draw in the Caribbean, any time of year and on any island. Our cruises offer a deep exploration of the region’s most alluring ports, no matter what itinerary you choose. 

Eastern Caribbean cruises and Tropical Caribbean cruises are popular for first-timers, as there’s less time spent at sea. Stop into Key West, Grand Turk, Puerto Rico and Half Moon Cay on these itineraries. 

Where Do Caribbean Cruises Leave From?

Our Caribbean cruises depart roundtrip from Fort Lauderdale, on the Florida’s southeast coast, 23 miles from Miami. There’s plenty to do before or after your cruise in this welcoming city, dubbed the Venice of America, because of its shimmering waterways. 

Meander a leafy green oasis in the city at Hugh Taylor Birch State Park. Find new duds at Las Olas Boulevard’s luxury boutiques and then dine alfresco at one of many eateries lining the street. In Fort Lauderdale, you’re always steps away from a beautiful beach.

What Activities Are Available On Caribbean Cruises?

As the islands are so varied, you will find activities for every age and level. This is the place to cross aquatic adventures off your bucket list—kayak mangroves or wade into the sea astride a horse on Half Moon Cay. Snorkel a shipwreck. Go underwater in a submarine to see schools of vivid fish. Many people bring gear, but it is also rentable in port. 

Our Caribbean shore excursions deeply connect you to every destination. Indulge your inner foodie on FOOD & WINE tours or take a city excursion to historical sites. Book early to avoid disappointment. 

What Is Caribbean Weather Like?

In general, the Caribbean enjoys a tropical climate with average lows in the 70s and highs in the 80s, sometimes cooled by sweeping trade winds. 

Wet season begins in May and lasts until late November, with June as one of the wettest months and September/October as peak hurricane season. The other half of the year is drier and milder. The ABC islands (Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao) have an arid climate and are not typically affected by hurricanes.

Find out more about Caribbean weather in our article on the best time for a Caribbean cruise

What Should I Pack?

Pack your suitcase thoughtfully with clothing made from moisture-wicking fabrics that can stand the heat. Vibrant colors and busy patterns are always on-trend. Bring extra swimwear and pack a few outfits into your carryon, so that you can start your vacation the moment you step on ship. Don’t forget dressy attire for Dressy Nights. 

Our list of what to pack for a Caribbean cruise makes packing a breeze.

What Is Caribbean Food Like?

Get ready to sample the world’s most innovative, creative cuisine. Caribbean food is bold, bright, flavorful and globally influenced. Most dishes are well-seasoned and rich, but not spicy.

Each island country has warm family restaurants that put their spin on signature dishes. Taste flying fish in Barbados, snack on conch fritters in the Bahamas, savor Jamaican jerk chicken—this is the place to expand your palate. 

Ready for the vacation of a lifetime? Book dream Caribbean cruises or view our Caribbean cruise tips and travel articles.